FILE - In this Wednesday, June 24, 2020 file photo, a volunteer receives an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, as part of Africa’s first participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial developed at the University of Oxford in Britain in conjunction with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. On Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, AstraZeneca Inc. announced that the Food and Drug Administration is letting it resume testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool via AP)

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 24, 2020 file photo, a volunteer receives an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, as part of Africa’s first participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial developed at the University of Oxford in Britain in conjunction with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. On Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, AstraZeneca Inc. announced that the Food and Drug Administration is letting it resume testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool via AP)

3rd major COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective and cheaper

All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals.

The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine.

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as the world anxiously waits for scientific breakthroughs that will bring an end to a pandemic that has wrought economic devastation and resulted in nearly 1.4 million confirmed deaths.

Pfizer and Moderna last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective. But, unlike its rivals, the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries.

“I think these are really exciting results,” Dr. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial, said during a news conference. “Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system. And so our goal … to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also cheaper. AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20 a dose, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.

All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.

Oxford researchers and AstraZeneca stressed that they aren’t competing with other projects, and that multiple vaccines will be needed to reach enough of the world’s population and end the pandemic.

“We’re not thinking about vaccinations working in terms of one person at a time. We have to think about vaccinating communities, populations, reducing transmission within those populations, so that we really get on top of this pandemic,” said Sarah Gilbert, a leader of the Oxford research team. “And that’s what it now looks like we’re going to have the ability to contribute to in a really big way.”

VIDEO: Growing number of Canadians plan to get vaccinated for COVID-19

The results come as a second wave of COVID-19 hits many countries, once again shutting businesses, restricting social interaction and pummeling the world economy.

AstraZeneca said it will immediately apply for early approval of the vaccine where possible, and it will seek an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization, so it can make the vaccine available in low-income countries.

The AstraZeneca trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half-dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month later was 90% effective. Another approach, giving patients two full doses one month apart, was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.

The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that is combined with genetic material for the characteristic spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. After vaccination, the spike protein primes the immune system to attack the virus if it later infects the body.

The vaccine can be transported under “normal refrigerated conditions” of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), AstraZeneca said. By comparison, Pfizer plans to distribute its vaccine using specially designed “thermal shippers” that use dry ice to maintain temperatures of minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit).

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the finding that a smaller initial dose is more effective than a larger one is good news because it may reduce costs and mean more people can be vaccinated.

“The report that an initial half-dose is better than a full dose seems counterintuitive for those of us thinking of vaccines as normal drugs: With drugs, we expect that higher doses have bigger effects, and more side-effects,” he said. “But the immune system does not work like that.”

The results reported Monday come from trials in the U.K. and Brazil that involved 23,000 people. Late-stage trials are also underway in the U.S., Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America, with further trials planned for other European and Asian countries.

AstraZeneca has been ramping up manufacturing capacity, so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine starting in January, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said earlier this month.

Soriot said Monday that the Oxford vaccine’s simpler supply chain and AstraZeneca’s commitment to provide it on a non-profit basis during the pandemic mean it will be affordable and available to people around the world.

“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,’’ Soriot said.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he felt “a great sense of relief” at the news from AstraZeneca.

Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and the government says several million doses can be produced before the end of the year if it is approved by regulators.

Just months ago, “the idea that by November we would have three vaccines, all of which have got high effectiveness … I would have given my eye teeth for,” Hancock said.

READ MORE: First COVID vaccines could arrive in U.S. on Dec. 12

___

Danica Kirka And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Laura Barnes is to feature some of her artwork at Gallery at Central Plaza next month. (Contributed photo)
New artist showcase coming to White Rock gallery

Laura Barnes work, mixing brights and darks, to be displayed in February

White Rock Public Library (File photo)
Surrey, White Rock literacy leaders kick off Family Literacy Week

Literacy events to take place Jan. 24 to 31

Surrey Community Cat Foundation received funding to assist with medical procedures. (File photo)
SurreyCats receives grant to assist with spay/neuter costs

PetSmart Charities of Canada donates $5,000

Beds are set up at the emergency response centre at the North Surrey Recreation Centre. (Contributed file photo)
26 people test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey emergency shelter

Centre located at North Surrey Recreation Centre

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cascade Christian School in Chilliwack will be closed until Feb. 5, 2021 due to a cluster of cases in the school. The school made the decision to close “out of an abundance of caution,” says Fraser Health. (Cascade Christian School image)
COVID-19 cluster leads to closure at Chilliwack Christian school

Cascade Christian School makes decision to close after seven people test positive for COVID-19

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Most Read